We’re all guilty of distracted driving. Whether it’s shooting off a text message, checking your Facebook feed, or just singing along with your favorite song, that brief glance away from the road is all it can take to cause an accident.
The best solution is to always pay attention to your driving, but in recent years automakers have been introducing a variety of electronic aids to warn drivers when they’re distracted, and even help them avoid a collision. Typically these systems include sensors mounted on the front of the car to help indicate an oncoming obstacle.
However, Toyota’s latest pre-collision technology ups the ante with active steering control. Toyota’s chief safety technology officer Moritaka Yoshida says the vehicle calculates how steering and braking must be applied to avoid crashing. If it’s too late to brake, the car will veer around the object to avoid hitting it.
The system scans for obstacles using cameras and a highly sensitive radar installed in the front of the vehicle. If the sophisticated computer controlling it all decides it’s too late to brake, and that there’s enough room around the vehicle, it actually takes control of the steering and swerves around the obstacle. In theory, it can help you avoid or minimize an accident.
However, these technologies are not fail-safe, as Volvo recently learned. At a media demonstration of its pedestrian-detection system, the technology failed, and the vehicle smashed into a test dummy. Volvo’s long winded explanation basically said the dummy was in the wrong place and wasn’t detected, which isn’t very encouraging. With the crash detection failing to apply the brakes in front of a group of journalists under what should have been ideal circumstances, it’s hard not to feel apprehensive about letting technology make steering decisions.
Toyota has long built a reputation for safety, but had to recall 3.8 million vehicles in 2009 amid a well-publicized issue with accelerator pedals sticking. With the memories of that recall still fresh, are consumers ready for technology to take away even more control from the driver?
Toyota didn’t indicate when we’ll see cars equipped with the new technology, but hinted that it should be soon. It probably will debut on higher-end Lexus vehicles, such as the Lexus LS 460 Touring Sedan shown here.